As the panel moderator, you have prepared for an amazingly powerful panel discussion. You’ve thought about the panelists, created an interesting format, and curated provocative questions. But your work is not quite done. Take a moment to think about your contingency plan – what you will do when the “unexpected” happens.
Will the panel address a controversial topic? Have the presence of the panelists incited disruptive behavior at other events? Carol Cambridge, a workplace violence expert says, “Controversial speakers or controversial subjects such as immigration, animal rights or even oil drilling can provoke violence.” Are the panelists being stalked by an ex or a fan? Cambridge continues, “You would be surprised by the number of speakers who have found themselves in this type of terrifying situation. Make sure your meeting professional [and panel moderator!] is aware of the threat.”
Prior to the event, think about your response to a number of situations. Crisis expert Gerard Braud calls this your “Vulnerability Assessment,” in which you list all of the crises your organization, or you as a panel moderator, speaker, or meeting professional are vulnerable to during an event. This is just the first step of his 5 Steps to Keep a Situation from Becoming a Crisis at Your Next Meeting, which you can learn here.
Specifically, think about your response to these five different emergency situations:
During your discussions with the meeting organizer, ask for their Emergency Action Plan. Some organizers will look pleasantly surprised and offer to email it to you. They will smile to themselves and think, “Wow! That panel moderator sure has his or her act together! No worries here…I am confident that we are in good hands!”
Other meeting organizers will sheepishly admit they don’t have one. That’s okay! This is not the time to make them feel guilty – just ask them these questions:
You will also want to add to your session checklist a couple of items:
No one wants, nor expects these things to happen. Yet, as a panel moderator, you can expect the unexpected! And as Gerard Braud would add,
“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
How Moderators Can Manage Awkward Audience Comments
How to Create GREAT Questions for Your Panelists to Answer during Your Panel Discussion
Panel Discussion Tip #185 with Jeffrey Hayzlett: Finishing Panel Discussions
For more resources on moderating panel discussions, visit the Knowledge Vault. To have Kristin moderate your next panel, visit the Powerful Panels official website.